Autonomy without statehood: A postcolonial account of self-determination struggles in nigeria

Abstract

The right to self-determination remains important to the subordinated ethnic groups of Nigeria. Self-determination served (and still serves) as a beacon for independence amongst subordinated peoples. The realization of independence, however, comes with its challenges. Sovereignty seems to translate into powerful internal structures of domination, many of which continue to instigate further claims for self-determination. These claims are, however, quite different from the past. They are not claims for independence, secession or statehood. They remain at best claims for economic sovereignty or, more accurately, agitations for economic self-determination. As such, the seemingly restrictive colonial model of self-determination remains quite unhelpful to the particularities of Nigeria. This is, perhaps, another example of how international law sits well with the powerful (in this case, the sovereign) but offers little or nothing to the stateless, oppressed or marginalized. Moreover, since the control of resources is a function of state sovereignty, international law - a state-centred discourse - seems quite unlikely to resolve this difficulty. Nonetheless, partial developments speak of distinctions between external self-determination and internal self-determination. Despite this, it remains unclear how to make sense of this recently asserted internal right to self-determination. The solution I propose is for this internal right to be understood as a right to take part in democratic government. The approach is inevitably in favour of explaining how self-determination might empower ethnic minorities with participatory rights to constitute and participate in democratic government. It is a human right concerned with self-government, territorial delimitation and economic resources. It is to an extent intertwined with the question of economic self-determination and responds to the lack of political accountability in the economic sphere. In essence, it links the question of democratic self-determination with economic self-determination in an attempt to bridge the divide between the economic and political spheres.

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